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Sunday April 9th, 2000

A day of rest - Not.  Was expecting a call from Morley anytime after 6 AM.  Called him around 8:30 and he was in Calgary.  Turns out his route was to go right past our door, so he dropped off the shipment and I did not have to drive to get them.

Called Matt and Steve to tell them to start at 3 PM and notified Adony.  Steve was really under the weather.  His parents had a huge party Saturday night and I think he did himself some harm.  He was asleep at 8:30 in the morning and still asleep when I called to remind him at 2:45, so we had to do without him.

Reay to Dump.  Click to zoom.Matt & El, and I got ready and Adony showed up around 4.  We went to Deer Run and the guys had set the whole thing up quite nicely so we pulled the centre frames out to start dumping bees in and guess what?  The first box had four frames of AFB in the middle.   What can I say?

Since we began using extender patties some time back we have not come across any AFB at all while splitting.  However we had some dead outs from previous years -- before we started using patties -- that were marked and set aside for processing in the shop.  They were finally processed this spring and about ten frames of scale were found in them.  That's not too bad, considering that up to 4% AFB is the norm in many commercial operations.  This find amounts to less than 1/10 of 1% on a large number of hives, a level which is as low as any I know of anywhere. 

Instructions to my brood chamber crew were to watch for any signs of disease and set everything questionable aside for inspection by a qualified beekeeper.  These frames were so obvious that anyone could spot them from twenty feet. I can only conclude that someone picked up the only two boxes of diseased frames in the entire outfit and mistook them for brood chambers.  The only other conclusion  can reach is deliberate sabotage and I do not want to believe that.  I am amazed and really disappointed in the guys I trusted with this important job. 

This experience underlines why it is so important to keep things in storage or in process physically separate from one another and to mark any anomalies clearly.  

It also shows why it is so important to destroy any AFB as soon as it is found in any outfit where AFB is not normally found.

If we normally had significant levels of AFB, which we do not, then then the danger of contamination by a few frames would less of a concern, since where several percent of the hives are diseased, the assumption must be that disease is in every hive and that a few diseased combs will not change things much.  However, where AFB is almost never seen, it can be assumed that any introduction of even one diseased comb will magnify risk considerably.

We'll look through the winter dead outs and see if we find more.  Hives with significant AFB invariably die over winter (We did not find any).  At these low levels of AFB, I think it would pay us to just melt or burn it and not fool around trying to save equipment.  That is especially true if there is a danger that some employee will mix the diseased combs back into a number of good brood chambers by mistake.  If we were looking at the higher levels, the situation might be different, but antibiotic resistant AFB is showing up everywhere these days and why take a chance?  We know we are on a very thorough medication regime, so anything that breaks down could be it -- and must be destroyed.

Anyhow, we glanced everything else over and installed the bees in rain and light snow.  The bees looked good and came up nicely.  There was no queen loss in this 100 hive batch and we made some small nucs to hold the extra queens.

Bees in Feeders.  Click to zoom.We did have some problems with  the feeders that came in the packages.  I guess they are still working on the design, but the feeders did drown a lot of bees and we spent some time saving what we could.

One thing about which we were not warned was that these feeders are full of bees when they arrive, and if we invert the packages, the syrup runs over the bees and the bees are soaked.  I guess this has happened in the past, but was quite noticeable this time.  Of course the first thing we do when installing the bees is to invert the package to dump out the big hole in the top, so we did wet a lot of bees before we got smart. -- especially since we were installing in the dark on the first load.  This time we were working in daylight and could see the problem. 

Seems that the only way to install these packages without significant loss is to bang them down to drop the bees to the bottom, rip the screen off, then dump the bees, remove the feeder and set it aside. 

A large problem is that weather can be very cool when installing and unless the feeders are cut open, many bees are lost to chilling in the feeders -- unless the feeders are all taken into a warm room overnight and the bees accumulated from a window in the morning.  That's a bit of fussing, but I guess the good old tried and true atmospheric can feeders can't work on airplanes.


Four of the treatments. Click to zoom. Adony's experiments were all set up when we got to his yard, but we decided to do ten hives with new Pierco dark frames as well, and spent some time changing the set-up.  Then we installed the bees. 

Since many of these hives were without any feed except what was in the frame feeder, and are on new foundation, and the weather was cool, we used fondant on all hives in the yard.  Since the fondant is immediately above the cluster,  they cannot starve.  That's the theory anyhow.

P4090022.jpg (225083 bytes)

Matt & Adony installing bees. Not sure exactly what each is doing here, but it is a nice picture.   Dark & light comb and white and black Permadent can be seen

P4090029.jpg (128705 bytes)

The bees are coming up nicely on the frames. Patties and fondant (in box),  white Permadent, black Permadent, and white comb treatments are visible. 

P4090024.jpg (204093 bytes)

The lids can go on now.  The bees are coming up and the fondant, extenders and protein patties are in place.  Hopefully they will cluster under them.  Some won't and we will have to check soon before they starve.

We finished at nine and all went back for supper and to debate the weight of honey bee workers.

Monday April 10th, 2000

I guess he looked it up as soon as he got home, because the header says that at  Mon, 10 Apr 2000 02:04:28 EDT, Adony emailed me the definitive answer.  I was only off by 100% or so -- I guess I was remembering the weight of queens, not workers.  He quotes from mark Winston's The Biology of the Honey Bee...

Emergence weight of honey bees shows as wide a range as development times and brood weights.

 For example, the ranges of average emergence weights for workers, drones and queens are 81-151mg, 196-225mg, and 178-191mg, respectively (according to 17 different studies reviewed by Jay 1963a, and Lee and Winston 1985a).

Post emergent adult bee weights show similar variability in weight; the range of mean weights per bee for samples of only 20 bees each was 81-140mg...

Factors affecting emergent worker weights include CELL SIZE, the number and age of nurse bees, colony population, availability of nectar and pollen, disease and season....There is also a genetic component....'

The emphasis on cell size is Adony's. He knows I still am not sold on cell size as anything but a limiting factor.  My response on that point:

Right, obviously smaller cell = smaller bee, but does bigger cell = bigger bee? When we bind a little girl's feet, we get smaller feet, but when we don't they don't get any bigger than what we consider the 'natural' size -- determined by analogous factors to those you list.

As clarification, I am not saying that larger cells don't make for slightly larger bees -- I have been aware for a long time that this seems to be proven.  What I am saying is that the increase in size is insignificant to most of us and not an important effect of any practical significance, and that other ways of getting superior bees such as genetics, nutrition, location, etc.  are much easier to arrange and likely to have greater positive effects in most areas of concern.

I am open to the idea that larger cells may provide a different environment that could have both positive and negative effects on the inhabitants, as could -- just as easily -- smaller cells.  I am very interested in the debate being carried on, but am not passionate about it and think the bees probably know best.  As we have seen, our friendly neighbourhood bees in North America and Europe seem to like to build cells mostly in the 5.2 to 5.4 mm range (with occasional counts down to 5.0) when given the freedom to do as they please.  This fact has not been missed by the researchers and foundation makers for the most part.

On the topic of measured brood areas, I had asked Adony to look up any studies he could find where actual brood areas were recorded to see if they corresponded to what I calculated from the observations of egg laying made by the authors I had read.  He responds:

Also, looking in Tom Seely's 'Honey Bee Ecology' I learn that among feral bee colonies in Upstate NY, colonies generally do not exceed 30,000 cells of SEALED brood before they swarm.

I immediately did some figuring and replied thus:

...If the larva stage is 5.5 days and the egg is 3, then the pupal stage is 21 - 3 - 5.5 = 12.5 days.

Using the 30,000 SEALED cells divided by 12.5 we get a queen laying 2400 eggs a day (average) over the 12.5 days, at least. How can that be???

That is the equivalent of five full frames of capped brood, and figuring thus, 2400 X 21 = 50,400 cells of eggs and brood, or 50,400 / 6500 = 7.75 frames ENTIRELY full of brood.

The authors I read all seemed to think a good queen did 1200 to 1500 eggs a day. What gives?

...And he says 'generally'. There are some with more brood than that!?

This is only one report and it clearly does not seem to confirm what I had calculated.  I look forward to hearing more on this matter and clearing up the apparent conflict in observations.

Today was mostly a desk day and I got quite a bit accomplished.  El & I decided to go to town in the late afternoon and picked up some supplies.

Tuesday: Increasing cloudiness. 40 percent chance of showers in the evening. High 8

Tomorrow does not look too bad for feeding and checking bees, so I think we will get a couple of crews out working in the yards -- if we can.

Tuesday April 11th, 2000

We were out of here by 9 AM.  I think that is a record.  Even if the trucks are loaded the day before, it seems as if  we are seldom out by 10.

2lbs of bees on foundation.  Click to enlarge.Today, we started by visiting Adony's yard.  the weather has been cool, and we want to make sure the hives on foundation are not starving.  It happens so easily.  They have a feeder full of syrup, but they have to get to it.  They have fondant, but they have to recognize it and begin on it.  Sometimes bees just seem to be brain-dead.  Or maybe they are demoralized as the old writers liked to say..

2 lbs of bees on Pierco.  Click -- you know the routine.Matt had been sent up to the yard yesterday to check them at the end of the day, but I wasn't convinced that he had managed to do everything possible.  The report seemed a bit scary. 

We went back and did it again.  I reckon we saved about $250 worth of bees, minimum.  One hive had the fondant bag upside down -- slits up.  Several had the bees out of touch with the feed. 

2 lbs of bees on Permadent.  Click...The cluster in packages forms wherever they decide, not necessarily where we put the feed, so adjustments must be made.  On foundation, the cluster is much smaller than on comb, and there is no place to put food during the day, except inside the bees.  In order to make wax, the bees must hang stationary in clusters and they take up little space.  All in all, it is a bit depressing to see, but in science, one must try things that seem dumb and not just assume that we know.

For some reason -- Tim will be glad to know - the Pierco hives all looked much nicer to me than the Permadent ones.  It's subjective, I know, but just look at the pictures.  Point to them and read the caption.  In the one on the left in the above paragraph, the bees are quivering (starving?) even though they had fondant in contact with them.  We're drizzling a bit of syrup from the feeder on them with a hive tool -- and hoping...

2 lbs of bees on drawn comb. Click, click...Here is what the bees really do well on -- drawn comb. I don't know why the magazine always tell beginners to start with foundation when even an expert has problems.   Wait... yes...  I do!   Aren't all the magazines owned by equipment manufacturers?  Hmmmm.

The dead bees in the frame feeders (deliberately shown here)  are from the feeders (shown above) that come in the packages, not from live bees drowning in the frame feeder.   There were dead bees in the feed we added to the feeders.   We dumped the extra feed into the feeders.  We put any live soaked bees where they could be saved by the rest of the bees -- as much as we could.

These bees ate right up through the fondant!  Click...Now, here's a good bunch of bees.  They've eaten right up thru the fondant!  They're one of the better looking groups on Permadent.  Shucks!  I can't see if it is white or black. 

Something we will have to remember when we compare results is this: The Pierco frames were straight out of a box that was purchased in spring 1998.  The white Permadent was purchased in the spring of 1999 and some had been installed into new frames as long ago as several months and stored in open supers under a roof.  The black Permadent had been installed into new  frames quite recently.

We went on to unwrap some more hives at Frere's. The guys got right into it and we unwrapped 160 in about 3 hours, including putting on two protein patties and a grease patty -- and feeding 67% syrup in the frame feeder that we keep year round in every brood box.  We also cleaned up thoroughly. Of the 160, 27 were dead or shaken out. That's 17%.  Very consistent.

I left a little early to write paycheques.  They did not mind.  They then went on to Elliott's and Sommervilles'.  No report yet.

Tomorrow's forecast:

Wednesday: Mainly cloudy with occasional snow developing in the afternoon. Snowfall amounts near 5 cm. Wind becoming northerly 40 km/h gusting 60 in the afternoon. High plus 6 temperature becoming cooler in the afternoon.

Now, here's our April 13th storm coming.  I've talked about it for years and it almost never misses.  It missed by one day this year, but then that's the prediction.  We'll see.

I hope we get the 80+ degree May the 8th we used to get. Some years the warmest day of the year came in May.  In years when we had a hot week in early May, the bees simply exploded three weeks later, since huge amounts of brood were possible.  In one such year we got a super of honey on foundation from the silver willow bloom during the week of June 10th .

Wednesday April 12th, 2000

What'd I say? They changed the forecast and now the storm will be tonight and tomorrow -- on the 13th the way its supposed to be.

Today: A mix of sun and cloud. High 8.

Tonight: Occasional showers changing to snow this evening. Snow at times heavy overnight. Wind becoming northeast 20 in the evening. Low minus 3.

Thursday: Snow at times heavy. Wind northeast 30. High plus 1.

Here are the results from yesterday after I left:

Yard Name

Alive & Well

Total Wrapped




Elliotts' East



To date that is:

Elliotts' Hiway      









Elliotts' East



For a total of 418 survivors out of 476 or a 88% survival.  We'll lose another 5% that turn out to be duds, but that is not too bad.  Hope the rest of the yards do as well.

I'm trapped at my desk today.  Got to get the books to the accountant and the bank in the next day or two.  Only a few things left to do, but it makes me crazy.

Heavy snowfall warning issued 10 to 20 cm are predicted throughout this region for tonight and tomorrow.

Looking over last year's notes -- an acceptable form of procrastination --  I see we were pretty well finished unwrapping by the 5th of April or so.   We are very much slower this year, because we found that we went off a bit early last year due to the excellent previous year.  This year is slow too, like last year.  BTW, our pond is just about thawed and I ordered the white amur today.  Gotta order trout soon.

I think it is good to get some syrup and protein into the bees as early as practicable, but the wraps certainly help protect the bees when we get these cool winds and snow.

Today the guys went over to Willows with instructions to unwrap, feed, and to turn tail and run at the first sign of bad weather.  We want the bees to have some time to get used to being unwrapped before the storm hits. 

The only reason for unwrapping, frankly is to get some feed into them.  Otherwise I'd leave them wrapped until they are about to swarm in May then split them. I've done it that way and it works well.

Anyhow, the storm showed up and the temps started to drop.  We saw the temp go from plus 14 to plus 4 in about twenty minutes and big fluffy popcorn sized flakes started to go by my window at an angle.   I tried for 1-1/2 hours to reach my guys on the cell phone to make sure they were breaking off.  No answer.  It's a good thing there is no way to commit murder over an unanswered cell phone.  (This is humour.  Laugh here). 

Gareth showed up at four, but the others were 'finishing up'.  They unwrapped all the rest, but did not open them to feed protein patties.  Didn't I just say that the only reason we were unwrapping early was to get the patties into them?

Today's yard lowered the average.  We had stuck some unpromising hives there at the end, and they kept their 'unpromise' and died.   So, now we add to the record,




That's only 77% survival and 23% loss.  We'd blame the yard for bad winter loss if we did not know we always give it the losers.  Thanks for reminding me, Ryan.

Thursday April 13th, 2000

Click to see the poor bees.Here it is -- our spring storm -- right on schedule.  Surely the universe is unfolding as it should.

Actually this weather is good for the bees, as long as they are on comb and have lots of feed.  If it were nice, they would be out flying around bothering the neighbours and ageing themselves for nothing -- there are no flowers, no pollen, no nectar.  It is time just to sit on brood and wait for the crocuses.  I don't think we need minus ten temperatures though, and that is what we are getting.  I'm sure now that we'll lose some of the packages in the experiment and I'm feeling sad.

The varroa find in New Zealand is big news.  It won't affect me much, but I know it will cause some hardship.

Our pond is now almost free of ice.


Posts I've Made to BEE-L since February 10th, 2000
The Subject Line often does not have mush to do with the topic





The Future is Not what it Used to Be





Automated Beekeeping.





Re: New Queen?





Re: Computer AND Apidictor: Poll results





Re: Computer AND Apidictor





Re: Early Feeding





Re: Robust varroa management?





Re: Screened Bottom Boards. (Floors)





Re: Screened bottom boards





A New Beekeeping Telemetry List





Re: Liquid Smoke





Re: Screened bottoms





Re: Screened bottom boards





Re: Formic Acid Gel Packs





Re: expeller/hexane processed soyflour





Re: Winter kill





Junk on Screen Bottoms





The Price of Sugar





Re: pollen patties










Beekeeping is Very Simple










Re: Competition





FW: "No Bees, No Peace"





Re: Removing Beeswax from Pans





Re: Language - not language





Re: 9 5/8" boxes, 9 1/8" frames, and Bee space





Re: trim deeps





Your Post Will Not Appear on BEE-L





Re: Making Foundation





Re: Maximum Brood Area





Potassuium Sorbate





Re: To brood or not to brood





Re: cell size





Re: cell size





Re: Formic: Organic or synthetic





Worker Cell Measurement





Attention - Non-North American Beekeepers





Quoting and Leaking and Diaries and Such





Re: (florida inspections)





Re: (florida inspections)





Packages on Foundation





Re: Rich Australian beekeepers

Friday April 14th, 2000

This turned out to be a dull work inside kind of a day.  The guys sorted combs and cleaned up.  Matt took the day off and plans to work tomorrow, Steve is still sick.  I worked at my desk, and got a lot accomplished for a change.  Ellen moved furniture and ran back and forth directing activities.

The weather was minus 13 this morning and we have six inches of snow with more coming.  I guess we put the snowmobile away too soon.   They are promising better weather for tomorrow - a high of plus 5

The packages on foundation -- even with fondant -- are starting to look like really bad idea.  Why don't I listen to my own advice?  I know that packages on foundation are a really questionable proposition and tell anyone who will listen and many who won't.  Why don't I?

Saturday April 15th, 2000

It's minus 9.9 and dull this morning.  A month from now we are going to be in the midst of splitting, and two months from now we will be getting ready to move bees to pollination.

Matt is coming in today.  It's too cold to do much outside, although we have queen checks due on the packages and we are thinking we are going to have to give the foundation hives in the experiment some comb -- if they are still alive.  I guess it will be perfect day to assemble one of the diesels.  A day without distractions is best.  One does not want to spend $4000 on machining and parts, then make some stupid little assembly error because of interruptions.

A neighbour just phoned and its seems his Swinger is still in repair and his bees have to come out of the shed before the next warm spell, so he is on his way to borrow one of our spares.  It's a three hour drive each way for him.  Oh, well.

BeePro in Boxes.  Note the nails to hold lids up for bee access. Click to zoomHow to feed BeePro, yeast or soy flour in open feeders?  Here's a group of simple, cheap feeders made from an old super with 3/8" plywood nailed to the bottom and four nails sticking up an inch or so near the corners to raise the lids enough that the bees can get in and out freely. 

We simply place these feeders in the yards with telescoping lids on them to keep the feed dry. We also use drums on their sides as dry feed shelters, but they are more hassle and we need to take the dust out periodically in order that we can use the drums for syrup feeding.  These box feeders fit nicely on the truck since they are the same dimensions as supers.  They are also dirt cheap to make and we can leave them in the yard year round.   You never know when the bees will want protein supplements.

These boxes are also used for tote boxes around the place when the four nails are removed.  We even built benches that use them as drawers, since we have thousands of old boxes kicking around.

So far, the diesel is not getting much work.  Our gas Swingers have been a bit balky lately and in need of tuning.  Since one is going for a ride, we thought we should get down to it and Matt reset the carb and the timing. 

We have the manual for these beasts and they give proper settings, but we have found that the factory specs result in poor performance.  Maybe we have the wrong specs?  A few words from the dealers and we have found that they never use the specs; the solution is to time them by ear. 

I know about that from my childhood days in Muskoka.  I remember riding with Huey McLennan while he tuned our launch by ear.  That was interesting because he was deaf -- at least he wore a hearing aid.  He'd just raise the hatch, loosen the distributor a bit and listen for the right spot while we ran at various speeds around the bay.  A little fiddling with the idle and other mixtures and he'd be done.  No timing light, no dwell meter, no scope, no mixture analyser -- just his sense of what was proper, and a screw driver.

It may have been the same engine we have in these Swingers, or close, come to think of it.  The old Sea Birds used a Continental too,  I think.  Anyhow, these engines are not too fussy about what they burn, or specs.  If you just tune the gas and the spark so they accelerate and run well, you won't burn them out, they'll be as efficient as they are able, and they will go forever.  They are very different from the current crop of automotive four cylinder engines that are highly tuned, and critical in every adjustment.

Torquing the HeadMatt's working on the diesel now and the job is coming along steadily.  We take our time and are careful to measure everything.  A little care now can save a lot of time and expense later. We have a machine shop we trust and who works with us on this and that is nice to have

Bert came for supper and a visit, then we called it a day.  Matt and I are planning to go skiing tomorrow if he calls me by 8, if not he has decided he'd rather sleep.

Today: Occasional light snow. Wind southeast 20 km/h. High near zero.

Tonight: Occasional light snow. Low minus 3.

Sunday April 16th, 2000

Mainly cloudy. 40 percent chance of showers or light snow. High 8

I guess he'd rather sleep.  I did not get a call. 

This turned out to be a slow, dull day.  I was pretty tired and slept a lot.  Ellen & I have been studying up on laying tile, since we have a bit of that to do soon.  I really don't look forward to it.  Of course, I worked on the books and various office matters as well.

Preparing to spill mead on my keyboardThe computer started acting up this morning -- it would not let me into my accounting software -- and I remembered splashing a few drops of mead on the keyboard last night about the time Bert showed up.  I had wiped it off and thought no more of it. As it turns out,  a little mead got under one edge and, the keyboard seemed okay, there are a few characters that were shorted out.  I tried fixing it, but now it does not work at all and I have stolen my wife's for the moment.

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allen dick 2000.  Permission granted to copy with attribution and in context .

"If I make a living off it, that's great--but I come from a culture where you're valued not so much by what you acquire but by what you give away," -- Larry Wall (the inventor of Perl)